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Lament for a Son

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  595 ratings  ·  87 reviews
This book was written more than twelve years ago to honor the author's son Eric, who died in a mountain-climbing accident in Austria in his twenty-fifth year, and to voice Wolterstorff's grief. Though it is intensely personal, he decided to publish it in the hope that some of those who sit on the mourning bench for children would find his words giving voice to their own ho ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published December 31st 1996 by William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (first published January 1st 1987)
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Steven Wedgeworth
While this book is moving in its emotional and personal witness, it also happens to be highly unorthodox. Wolterstorff comes back, again and again, to the concept that "God suffers," and he is not content to leave this as true through the communicatio idiomatum of Christ's human nature and divine person, but rather pushes further, locating the image of God itself in suffering. We are like God in that God is already like man, or so the argument goes. I'm continually baffled to see people claiming ...more
I believe what first had me pick this up was a short piece I read by Helen De Cruz, about a month ago. She was writing, I think, on religious and nonreligious mystical experiences and the kind of warrant (or lack thereof) they might enjoy in epistemically directing our gaze towards a seismic and particular vision of ultimate reality. And there was something in her way of addressing these things, an attitude towards religious thinking that was heartily theistic and yet as heartily modest, that se ...more
Joel Fick
"It's a love song. Every lament is a love song." "Lament for a Son" is a beautiful, honest, and difficult articulation of grief. Wolterstorff invites us into his grief, to rejoice with him over the life of his son, and to weep with him over the sudden loss of his child. He is no longer complete, his family is not complete. "When we're all there we're not all there, his absence as real as our presence." It will make you cry, or at least it should. Death is un-natural. "Death, I knew was cold. And ...more
Lucy Wightman
Lament for a Son
by Nicholas Wolterstorff

Simple and elegant are two words that come to mind after reading Lament for a Son. This small, easy book does not overwhelm therefore counterbalances the impossible loss of one’s child. One of the universal changes in grief is the loss of concentration. In losing a child I am not sure this improves dramatically. It took two years before I could read more than a few pages at a time.

In the genre of grief, I found the author’s reflections to be specific, desc
This is a journal-like book on the author's grief following the accidental death of his young-adult son. Wolterstorff is a theologian but he does not claim to have all the answers --he asks a lot of questions and struggles to integrate his belief in the Living God with his sorrow and pain at his son's death. He is comforted in knowing that our Lord suffered too, and speculates that being made in the image of God includes that we will suffer as he did. This book is a good companion to anyone who ...more
This book was recommended to me by a wonderful lady by the name of Mary who owns a bookstore in Sandwich, MA on the Cape. I was curious as to how it would fare due to how thin it was but I began reading it immediately. I could NOT put it down. I read it in one sitting as it's very easy to read due to it's journal style.

Nicholas Wolterstorff is a master at writing about all the feelings one goes through after a loss. Feelings that leave you scratching your head and wondering how you arrived at t
Natalie Eastman
What can I say about Prof. Waltersdorff's Lament for A Son? My husband gave me this book after my father died in a confirmed medical malpractice situation, in which I was the primary witness. This book helped me sort through the various scenes of all those experiences, not pretending to make sense of it all, but seeing more of a God who cares and was with me, as well as my dad and mom, throughout it all.
The questions "why?" and "what if…" frequently escaped my lips during the two years followin
Although I could relate, it was extremely heart wrenching, too much so, for a newly grieving parent.
It was however, reassuring that I wasn't losing my mind, but merely experiencing what any parent who has lost a child experiences.
Ann Zilka
Jun 04, 2012 Ann Zilka is currently reading it
This collection of Wolterstorff's thoughts and insights is impacting on a level which those who have deeply grieved can understand. A work rich in humility, honesty and faith.
Dustin Bagby
Beautifully and powerfully written. A short, but deep well of insight into the one who grieves.
Very helpful during a time of desperate need.
Rae Ann Norell
This book was given to me shortly after my 24 year old son died while competing in a triathlon. I began to read many books written by parents grieving the loss of a child, but this one resonated deeply, as the author's son, also about age 25 and an athlete, died doing what he loved, mountain climbing. The father has to go to Austria to bring back his son's body. I have highlighted so many parts of this book, that touched me deeply. I will quote just one example in the Preface: "Rather often I'm ...more
Astonishingly beautiful book, in so far as you can say this about such a heart-wrenching subject. I read this after my Mom died in May. Wolterstorff discards his philosophical posture and gives us a peak behind the veil into his interior life as he struggles with the death of his son. I wept several times as he gave expression to the incredible ache of losing a loved one.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"Someone said to Claire, 'I hope you're learning to live at peace with Eric's death.' Peace, shalo
Honest, real and profound a la Job
What the world gives, I still accept. But what it promises, I no longer reach for. I've become an alien in the world, shyly touching it as if it's not mine. When someone loved leaves home, home becomes a mere house
What does it mean, Eric dead, removed from our presence, covered with earth, inert? Or is such shattering of love beyond meaning for us, the breaking of meaning- mystery, terrible mystery?
I tried music... I had to turn it off... There's too little bro
James Korsmo
"It won't stop; it keeps on going, unforgiving, unrelenting. The gears and brakes are gone" (23). Nicholas Wolterstorff lost a son who was in the prime of his life. Suddenly, and without warning. Awful to behold. In brief compass, Wolterstorff gives a very authentic voice to his pain and grief. It isn't muted for general audiences (or at least, not much), nor is it smoothed over as a blip in human experience. Rather, grief is met head on. And neither is it moralized into "what doesn't kill us ma ...more
Batch Batchelder
Oct 18, 2012 Batch Batchelder rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everybody affected by grief
Recommended to Batch by: Eric Levenhagen
A raw, unflinching (yet will make you flinch) look at grief and grieving. No sugar coating. No empty platitudes. An expression of suffering, mourning, grief, agony, regret and angst. Reflective. Incisive. Truly deals with the emotions and tensions and conflicts of living through agonizing pain as a Christian. Real expression of struggle hued with reflections of scripture and colored by the voices of other thoughtful believers. Helpful for anyone struggling to process and understand a grief - so ...more
Nicholas Wolterstorff is a top drawer theologian who taught at Yale for years. He is a part of the evangelical Christian Reformed Church.

But he's also one who knows deep sorrow up close. His gifted, kind young son Eric was taken suddenly in a freak accident. Wolterstorff was plunged into deep grief that caused him to reconsider everything. On the other end of it came a requiem music memorial, and this engrossing little book - Lament for a Son, written in 1987. For years I have recommended this
Stacie Bertram
By far, the best book on grief I have read -- and I have read many. This book resonated with me on so many levels -- the shock of losing a child suddenly (my daughter died in a car accident), the disbelief that it happened, the raging against a God that like the author I had trusted in my whole life who allowed this to happen to me, the inability to accept platitudes from well-meaning people who were afraid to "...sit beside me on my mourning bench." He so eloquently expresses the aching, anger ...more
scott cunningham
This book is one of my favorites, oddly enough. It is odd, maybe, since the book was written by a theologian named Nicholas Wolterstorff in the wake of his 25-year-old son's death, and I've never had a close intimate in my life die. But the book had quite an effect on me - and still does, actually, as I have read it twice since then, and skimmed it several other times. The book refuses to let the reader believe that death is "natural." If death is natural, then we are obliged to accept it as sim ...more
Powerful lament by Wolterstorf, formerly of Calvin College, now Yale. He lost his young son to a mountain climbing accident. A short book. A candid wrestling with death and suffering. I found his insights to be simple and profound. He gives words to deeply held, but unspoken, thoughts. No easy answers - or really answers at all. And yet, he expresses a deeply Christian mourn-yet-hope associated with the resurrection of Jesus.

I read about a third of it maybe two years ago and it has been on my "
DJ Seifert
Jun 04, 2011 DJ Seifert marked it as to-read
“I know now about helplessness—of what to do when there is nothing to do. I have learned coping. We live is a time and place where, over and over, when confronted with something unpleasant we pursue not coping but overcoming. Often we succeed. Most of humanity has not enjoyed and does not enjoy such luxury. Death shatters our illusion that we can make do without coping. When we have overcome absence with phone calls, winglessness with airplanes, summer heat with air-conditioning—when we have ove ...more
A terribly beautiful story of lament and mourning, set in the context of suffering and Christian hope. It may not be perfect in every way (e.g. theologically), but it reveals the brokenness of this world and the healing that is found in Christ in a moving and profound way. Definitely worth reading.
Jeffrey Backlin
A very helpful work on the emotional problem of evil, second to C.S. Lewis' "A grief observed," and the journey of a analytical philosophers dealings with the early death of his son.
Jan Proett
When my dear friend Brent Curtis (with whom I had worked for many years as counseling partners) died suddenly in a rock climbing accident, someone left this book on my doorstep. It was a lifeline for me. In many ways, Nicholas Wolerstorff's uncensored journal entries after the sudden death of his son were the only things 'big' enough for my heart during those days - big enough for my questions and confusion, but also big enough to honor my heart's true desire to be met by God during those days. ...more
Dana Goodman
One of the best book on grief I have read. Wolterstoff's Lament For A Son helped me navigate through my own grief journey and inspired me to write my own lament, "In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning.
Dana Goodman
It is exactly the experiences living and lived through following the news that my son Grey died in a mountain climbing accident in Mount Olympus National Park just 3 weeks ago. I will need to read it again to absorb the written word that so eloquently expresses so much regarding a sudden death of one's child. "So I know why he went. His deepest self drew him there, a self his [father] and I helped to shape. He had learned of challenge, of delight, of God. Something of us was inching its way up t ...more
We should not forget those who have died, or hurry to get over the pain and sadness of loss. In this lament, we feel with Wolferstorff his pain and anger, his helplessness and frustration, his sadness and confusion. We ask the same questions he does, and are challenged not to rush to the hope of the resurrection without first shedding tears of heartbreak and anger at the evil of death. Wolterstorff holds this heartbreak and hope in beautiful tension, not satisfied to resolve the perennial questi ...more
Lindsey Reed
Absolutely, completely my favorite book on grief.
Ryan Greer
This book aches with a longing from a father for his son. Wolterstorff dives into the depths of his own suffering to examine how and why a loving God causes us to suffer. This book is a quick read, and much of it is very insightful, but I'm not entirely sure I agree with his characterization of death. I have very little room to conjecture because unlike him I have never lost a son, but do not see death as demonic or evil in the same way that he seemed to suggest. Regardless I thought this book w ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Joel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the church
Recommended to Joel by: Carolyn Custis James
This is a book to feel, not to read. Wolterstorff deals with the death of his son at age 25, a climbing accident. He is concise. All of the excess is removed from his sentences, so that what remains is precisely his experience: deep agony, contempt of the reality of death, a sovereign God, and ultimately, a God who suffers with mourners. I haven't the life experience to empathize with Wolterstorff, but he can help me and others learn to be the body to those who do. And for those who do, may they ...more
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Wolterstorff is the Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, and Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on metaphysics, aesthetics, political philosophy, epistemology and theology and philosophy of religion.
More about Nicholas Wolterstorff...
Reason Within the Bounds of Religion Until Justice and Peace Embrace: The Kuyper Lectures for 1981 Delivered at the Free University of Amsterdam Justice: Rights and Wrongs Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim That God Speaks

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“And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other's arms and say, "I'm sorry.” 20 likes
“But we all suffer. For we all prize and love; and in this present existence of ours, prizing and loving yield suffering. Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much. Suffering is for the loving. This, said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.” 18 likes
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